In 2011, Brett Emmons was in Halifax, trying to make it on his own as a musician, when his older brother Jay suggested he head home to Kingston, Ontario, to join his new band. When he did, Emmons was impressed by what he heard. “They’d only been jamming for a year,” he recalls with a laugh, “and there was room for improvement, but I knew they had a certain thing.”
In the years since, The Glorious Sons have seen their songs top the rock charts in both Canada and the United States. They’ve amassed an ardent fan base, and have played massive shows, including opening for The Rolling Stones and Twenty-One Pilots as part of a U.S. tour with The Struts. Their second studio album, Young Beauties and Fools, won the JUNO for Rock Album of the Year in 2018, and their third, 2019’s A War On Everything, was named one of Classic Rock UK’s Albums of the Year. The band celebrated the release of that album with a two-and-a-half-hour-long stadium show for a hometown crowd of 14,000 fans.
For many, it’s Brett Emmons’s raw, heartfelt lyrics that really resonate. “I try not to write about anything that I don’t know,” he explains. “We’re all connected as human beings, and whether you’re living in a mansion on a hill, or in a neighbourhood that might not be as safe and happy – it all ripples out. I don’t think anyone is safe from the things I [write] about – things like drug addiction, anxiety, depression, or money problems.”
Though he was drawn to songwriting at a young age, Emmons says it was artists like Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, and The Killers, among others, who showed him the power of telling stories with song. “I was about 15 or 16 years old,” he says, “and my whole world got blown open to what rock ‘n’ roll could actually be. I realized it didn’t have to be Led Zeppelin or AC/DC. It wasn’t all power chords or aggressive songs. It could also be emotive stories with an acoustic guitar.”
“We have five writers in our band” – Brett Emmons of Glorious Sons
He then began experimenting with writing his own melodies, inverting the chords he learned from his guitar teacher and turning them into original songs. “It was a gigantic cerebral phase in my life that I think… basically hasn’t stopped.”
As the band’s dynamic and performative frontman, Emmons handles the bulk of the initial songwriting by coming up with lyrics, chords, or verses, and then takes that material back to his bandmates, Chris Koster, Adam Paquette, Chris Huot and his brother Jay, for their feedback.
“Because we have five writers in our band,” Emmons adds, without hesitating. “A lot of the time I might come up with the theme and the melody, but one little tweak [from someone else] blows it wide open.” He stresses that nobody is limited to writing parts for their own instruments. “The people in the band are much more than the instruments they play,” he says. “For our band, it’s a very important factor when it comes to songwriting.”
When the band’s 80-day North American tour was cancelled due to COVID-19, Emmons saw an opportunity to take a break and focus on rest and writing. “I love to sit in one place and play guitar, drink beer, drink coffee, and write songs,” he laughs.
Emmons feels confident that he already has an album’s worth of material written, and anticipates that he may well have more by the time The Glorious Sons are allowed to fill stadiums again. For now, he’s grateful to get to make music for a living, and for the chances it provides for him to connect with people.
“Looking out and seeing the whole crowd singing your song,” he says, “that’ll make the hair stand up on your arms, for sure.”